Serious consequences for U.S. by remaining outside the treaty
The debate on the Convention would be just an interesting political science case study if it were not for the fact that there are serious consequences to not ratifying it. The Convention comes open for amendment for the first time in November of this year. If the United States is not party to the Convention at that time, we will not have a seat at the table to protect against proposed amendments that would roll back Convention rights we fought hard to achieve.
Some nations may press for restrictions on the movement of naval or commercial vessels near their coastline. Others may pursue the right to exclude nuclear-powered vessels from their territorial waters. (Under the Convention, a ship's propulsion system cannot be used as an argument to restrict its movements.) As a party, we will be in a very strong position to prevent harmful amendments.
In addition, the Convention's Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf will soon begin making decisions on claims to continental shelf areas that could impact the United States' own claims to the area and resources of our broad continental margin. Russia is already making excessive claims in the Arctic. Unless we are party to the Convention, we will not be able to protect our national interest in these discussions.
U.S. failure to ratify UNCLOS has damaged U.S. national security and economic growth by forclosing valuable opportunities, increasing the costs for military operations, and crippling U.S. maritime leadership as our adversaries become more aggressive.